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Alex Russin, Country Director for Jordan for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) will speak about challenges and opportunities in Jordan, his work on water and sanitation issues, and more. Come join the discussion.
*Please note that registration for this event will close at 4:00 pm on Thursday, 10/27/2016. If you have any questions, please send an email to [email protected].*
Katherine Raphaelson, SID Washington, welcomed the attendees and thanked the panelists and moderator for their participation. She then explained the nature of the “Voices from the Field” event series, as well as the functions of SID-Washington and discussed upcoming events. Ms. Raphaelson then handed the floor over to the Middle East Workgroup Co-Chairs, Ammar Daoud and Hisham Jabi.
Hisham Jabi, Management Systems International, introduced himself and his organization, as well as the focus of his work – namely, youth, workforce and civil society development. He then turned the floor over to Mr. Daoud.
Ammar Daoud, Engicon USA, introduced himself and his organization, as well as the work performed by Engicon in Jordan. He then introduced Mr. Russin and provided information on his professional background and experience. He then handed the floor over to Mr. Russin.
Alex Russin, Millennium Challenge Corporation, provided additional details on his own background before joining MCC, highlighting his private sector experience and resulting framework with which he approaches the work of MCC. He then explained the background of MCC, describing how around the millennium, a group of people from the World Bank, civil society, the State Department, and various other institutions came together to assess the successes of the US’s development efforts since WWII. That success had been achieved in a limited number of places. Mr. Russin continued, signaled two points: development is challenging, and there was an opportunity for improvement. These two notions provided a broad framework for the establishment of MCC, which emphasizes giving individual countries ownership of their own development, as well as effectively measuring results and promoting transparency about those results. Mr. Russin noted that the MCC doesn’t work with every country, but rather grades countries and offers grants to the countries that are implementing the correct kinds of policies. Since its inception, MCC has signed compacts with 33 countries.
Turning specifically to MCC’s work in Jordan, Mr. Russin gave a PowerPoint-accompanied overview of both MCC’s work in Jordan, a five-year project that is swiftly approaching completion. He noted that Jordan is typically ranked as being somewhere between the first and seventh most water-poor country in the world. He continued by explaining that strategically, there are two ways to try to improve Jordan’s water sector: finding more water using new wells or desalination technology and using the water that they have more effectively.
In their partnership with MCC, Jordanians decided to implement a program more along the second option – fix pipes and use pre-existing water sources more effectively. Mr. Russin described that when the MCC team first went to Jordan, only 52 percent of the water paid for and put into the pipe made it to consumers. The program developed with the Jordanian government through its MCC partnership is designed to address this problem. Mr. Russin continued to explain that the Jordanians wanted to focus the $275 million specifically on Zarqa – an urban area tied to the city of Amman but a growing development in and of itself. In implementing the project, the Jordanians said they wanted to use some of the money to fix their pipe system and infrastructure, which would benefit them in three ways. First, it would save more water, second, it would collect more wastewater, and third, it would create more clean water. In all, over 1,000 kilometers of trenches were built in Zarqa in three years, projects which were all implemented by Jordanians and Jordanian contractors. Additionally, a large wastewater treatment plant in Zarqa, initially funded by USAID, and completed with MCC funds, now treats 70 percent of Jordan’s wastewater. The treated water is then being fed back into the agricultural system.
After providing an overview of the MCC water project in Jordan, Mr. Russin discussed additional components of MCC’s work in Jordan. He explained that when MCC provides money, they also try to provide additional benefits to the communities in which they work. One specific example of this is women’s plumber group trainings conducted in conjunction with the pipe reconstruction project in Zarqa. Mr. Russin also mentioned that in terms of health and safety standards for the MCC project, it took about nine million man hours to assemble the project, and there have been no deaths.
Mr. Russin concluded the discussion by emphasizing that the MCC model is based on country ownership in terms of decision making, implementation, and problem-solving, a model which empowers Jordanians to find the best solutions for themselves. MCC also encourages investment from the Jordanian government and other actors to create areas of concentrated development, which they believe makes development more sustainable.
Mr. Russin opened the floor to questions.
To view the photos from the event, please click here.